My struggles with grammar

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

 

For those of you who believed I was going to be writing about Jane Austen this time, I can only apologise. Yes, I am coming to the end of my six weeks ‘Writing with Austen’ course, which is proving to be most delightful. Why did I wait so long before reading Pride and Prejudice!

This time though, I’m going to get a little personal, and bare my writer’s soul, or brain. You can decide which one at the end.

I struggle with the art of grammar–and punctuation, but I’ll save that for another time. Two things prompted this post. Nicki Copeland’s excellent grammar tips, and the fact I am taking a ‘Grammar for writers’ course

What I’m shocked about is how much I didn’t know! I remember learning that nouns are naming words, verbs are action words and adjectives are delightfully descriptive ones, but how did all this ‘every sentence has an object and subject’ pass me by? And then there are the ‘to be’ verbs. Am, are, is, was, were, be, being and been. How have I got to the age of 47 without knowing about them? I always believed ‘To be or not to be’ was just a quote from Hamlet.

And that’s just the simple stuff! I’ve got Prepositional Phrases, Participles and Gerunds and Infinitives to look forward too!

One thing that has stuck in my mind is this basic concept about a sentence. ‘Who did what to whom’ The bear slept for example. What frustrates me the most, is that I know the ideas are up there, and my imagination has no problem with coming up with the goods, but it's the getting them down on paper and trying not to look foolish, which is the most annoying part. 

I genuinely envy those who have no problem with grammar at all. I hope a certain person, who left this comment on Nicki’s post, ‘I get very annoyed with people's grammar and spelling mistakes!’ will try and hold back if they ever spot any errors in my writing.

There is hope though. The dreaded words ‘been vs beingwere the bane of my life for a long time, until a colleague kindly explained to me, with helpful examples, that ‘been was used in the past tense and being in the present.’

I’ve realised that I’ve got to this point without mentioning that I’m dyslexic, so that may have a large amount to do with this thorn in my side, I don’t know.

I use grammarly for my work emails, though interestingly, it sometimes suggests things that my colleagues, who proofread some of my work, don’t agree with or didn’t suggest. I don’t know whether to go for the grammarly paid option or the ProWritingAid one, though they seem pretty similar, and I’ve just discovered eleven more options!

I know there are quite a few teachers in the ACW community, so if you have any advice or recommendations then I’d be delighted to hear them.

Until next time, may your words flow, your imagination sizzle and your use of grammar be absolutely  gorgeous!


 Martin is a writer, baker, photographer and storyteller. He's been published in the ACW Christmas anthology and Lent devotional. He's currently honing his craft at flash fiction and you can find him on Twitter here. 

Comments

  1. Martin, this is such a lovely post, so honest and well written. Dyslexia (and maybe a lack of good teaching?) could be reasons for challenges with grammar. Or just the times you were brought up in. I'm older than you but certainly the received wisdom when I was at primary school was not to teach grammar. I learned it at secondary school. My advice would be, when submitting stuff etc, to pay for a good proofreader. I did that anyway, even though I'm a teacher. It's easy to miss errors when reading your own work whatever your grammar is like. All the best!

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    1. Thanks, Deborah, that's both helpful, and very kind 😊

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  2. I agree with Deborah. Honest and refreshing as always! I thought I was pretty good at grammar, but the copy edit of Isabella proved that this was not the case! Keep writing and don't let the grammar glitches get you down

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    1. Thank you, Ruth. Your encouragement means a lot 😊

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  3. Martin, you describe - with absolute clarity - typical dyslexic difficulties with getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of grammar. I admire you for even mentioning prepositional phrases and gerunds, although don't ask me what they are. I, too, struggle with aspects of language and the flash of shame when someone kindly points out errors in spelling or grammar. The reaction is short-lived nowadays and I am more likely to point out to the commentator that dyslexia is a reason, not an excuse. I expect my commas are all over the place in this paragraph. My grammatical use has improved over the years, but it will never be perfect, and that's something I and my editors will just have to accept. Grammar doesn't define you as a writer, Martin; you are as exact and as perfect as you are meant to be. All power to your writing!

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  4. Martin, sounds like you were from my generation when we weren't even taught grammar in schools so don't be hard on yourself! I've mainly learnt grammar over the years because of being a teacher. Even then there are things I get stumped on. You being dyslexic may only be part of the issue...

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    1. Thank you, Katherine, that's really helpful 😊

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  5. Thanks for your honesty, Martin. Just from a linguistic point of view, it's worth saying that we are all born with an innate ability to learn the grammar of our language. What we don't know naturally are all the terms for what we're doing and we don't need them either just to function in society. No one has to be 'told' not to say 'Garden I into the went' instead of 'Into the garden I went'. Also, children gradually learn somehow that some verbs don't behave properly, so we start saying, 'I goed into the garden' because we've noticed that 'ed' goes on the end of past tense words. Then, eventually, we realise 'go' doesn't behave like that and that the past tense is 'went'. We sigh at the injustices of life and move on ;) So, no one has to 'teach' us. We learn it naturally as long as we have people around who talk to us, and their grammar doesn't have to be perfect for this to happen, either. It's a God-given ability. Then we hit school, and someone expects us to know what a gerund is, or label the adverbs in a sentence, or create a perfect subordinate clause, and, boy, the trouble begins :( On the other hand, learning grammar in a way that we can use to improve creative writing sounds like a great idea, making it relevant, rather than stultifyingly boring.

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    1. Funny, insightful and encouraging. Thank you, Fran! 😊

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  6. Great post, Martin. As others have said, thank you for your honesty. In my experience, the writers I have worked with who I either knew or suspected to be dyslexic were among the most imaginative and creative writers. So I would say play to your strengths, and find someone to help you with the grammar. I am of the generation too that wasn't taught English grammar at school - much of what I learnt was through my French lessons and through courses and books since then.

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    1. Thank you, Nicki, that is both kind and encouraging. Great advice too! I really appreciate you taking the time to reply 😊

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